Politicians must have faith in university and college professionalism

21st June 1996 at 01:00
As one would expect, higher education institutions have been taking very seriously any areas criticised in Office for Standards in Education reports on initial teacher education (TES, June 7). It should be remembered that the great majority of such reports have been positive, nevertheless.

Thus, it is with regret that one notes that Labour education spokesman David Blunkett has seized upon the negative headlines when, in commenting on methods, standards and skills in primary schools, he links his concerns with a call for league tables of teacher-training institutions. Similar populist attacks on teacher education have been coming thick and fast from all the usual suspects.

OFSTED reports, however, are being used as a distraction from the real problems facing teacher education. Up until recently there has been an increasing quality in the newly qualified teachers leaving higher education, but now these standards are threatened from two quarters: massive funding cuts, unrelated of course to any educational principles; and an ideologically-driven shift of responsibility in teacher education from HEIs to schools.

Some years ago, a different group of inspectors stated that the primary purpose of schools was to teach children, not train teachers. We hope that the politicians will take seriously your leading article and apply it to the universities and colleges: we must have faith in their professionalism.

We do have faith in ourselves and can point to clear evidence that our students learn about the basics in their courses, while also becoming creative, questioning practitioners.

Alan Cousins, chair NATFHE teacher education standing committee College of St Marks St John Derriford Road, Plymouth

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